The Lagos State government has converted its Cardiac and Renal Hospital to an isolation centre for patients of COVID-19, an official in the ministry of health has said.
Tunbosun Ogunbanwo, the director of press and public affairs, told PREMIUM TIMES it was part of the government’s commitment to fighting the deadly disease.
“The government has simply shown its commitment to protect the people against this notorious virus. You need to know that at a time like this, you don’t wait to be hit before you act. The governor is being proactive, and that is what is needed at this time.”
The facility, which was built by the administration of a former governor, Babatunde Fashola, at N5.6 billion, and located within the premises of General Hospital, Gbagada, was abandoned by his successor, Akinwunmi Ambode.
PREMIUM TIMES had in July 2019 exclusively reported the corruption allegations and intrigues that caused the facility’s abandonment, especially among the principal stakeholders, including Mr Fashola, Mr Ambode and the promoter of the contractor- Deux Project Limited– Tunji Olowolafe, among others.
Following the report, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu set up an inter-ministerial committee to investigate the circumstances that led to the abandonment and how the facility can be resuscitated to achieve its purpose.
Mr Ogunbanwo, however, could not confirm if the committee by the governor had submitted its report.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt the state may formally inaugurate the facility during the week, especially considering the rising number of positive cases in the state.
The decision to convert the facility to an isolation centre, PREMIUM TIMES learnt, is targeted at attracting prominent Nigerian patients of Coronavirus disease, and discourage them from patronising private hospitals.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported at the weekend how private hospitals in Lagos have been flooded by the elites and socialites who may have been suspected of the disease.
A member of the state’s COVID-19 committee had confided in our reporter how the containment efforts of the government were being frustrated by the attitude of these VIPs, who he noted view themselves as being too big for public facilities.
Confirming this report, the state’s commissioner for health, Akin Abayomi, on Sunday announced that out of 14 Coronavirus-related deaths recorded in the state, only two were recorded at public isolation centres.
On Tuesday, the state announced two more deaths but failed to disclose where these deaths occurred.
The commissioner, however, said a total of 17 private hospitals have had contact with patients that were confirmed of Coronavirus.
The state House of Assembly also mandated its standing committee on health to probe the abandoned facility.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that the report of the inter-ministerial committee indicted some contractors connected with the project.
According to a legislator, who represents Kosofe 2 state constituency, Tunde Braimoh, the report recommended sanctions against culpable contractors but failed to do the same for colluding civil servants.
Mr Braimoh, who is the chairman of the assembly’s committee on information and strategy, in a short message to our reporter, revealed that during the report’s consideration on the floor, the committee was asked to reconsider its report by also recommending appropriate sanctions for culpable workers, who may have compromised in the execution of the project.
He, however, noted that the conversion of the ‘super tertiary facility’ to an isolation centre is a temporary reaction to the raging pandemic, and that it would not discourage the parliament from sanctioning indicted individuals and organisations.
Mr Braimoh said the committee was doing further work on the probe before the Coronavirus outbreak and that as soon as normalcy returns, the matter would be revisited.
He said; “The committee had since concluded investigations and submitted its reports for the consideration of the whole House. During the considerations, the House observed that the committee while recommending severe sanctions against culpable contractors appeared to ignore colluding staffers of the state who ought to have exposed the negligence denoted earlier.
“The House then directed the committee to probe further into what roles played by who of the staffers and recommend appropriate sanctions. Committee was at further work before the advent of COVID-19, which foisted helplessness on it in the meantime.”
The parliamentarian added that the use of the facility as an isolation centre has received a boost through massive rehabilitation and upgrading of its facilities.
He added; “Isolation centres are not permanent places. They are spontaneous reactions to the pernicious pandemic. They are makeshift centres. Even hotels and event centres are being used all over the world. Using a specialised place of convalescence for a seasonal disease control does not preclude it from reverting to its original purpose later.
“The pandemic of COVID-19 requires that we deploy all resources at our disposal to repel and repress it. You just need to visit the centre now and see the level of the upgrade.”
Worried by the rising cases of non-communicable diseases (NCD), and particularly cardiac and renal-related ones, dominating major health interventions in the state, Mr Fashola established the Cardiac and Renal Hospital.
But officials said there was no evidence of competitive bidding after the state government awarded the contract for the facility’s construction to Deux Project Limited, in 2008.
Speaking on the procurement process leading to the contract award, a source at the state’s ministry of health who requested not to be quoted, said the procurement act had not been fully domesticated in the state then.
The source said; “What was in vogue was just the tenders’ board and cabinet’s approval. Deux Project Limited, since the days of former governor Bola Tinubu, was almost the state’s sole contractor, especially in the health sector.
“It constructed and equipped all the maternal and child care buildings across many general hospitals in the state. It also built the Bola Tinubu Diagnostics, a private diagnostic centre located within the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja, and its burns unit located inside the General Hospital, Gbagada.”
Apart from construction and equipment, PREMIUM TIMES also learnt that the company was also in charge of facility maintenance at the various public hospitals in the state.
“So at the time, it was not surprising that the same company was awarded the construction of the centre which was meant to be the first of its kind in West Africa,” the source added.
Meanwhile, according to the state’s health ministry, apart from the purchase of equipment and installation, the building construction was originally awarded at the sum of N1.4 billion. But soon, an increase of N796 million, more than half of the contract award cost, was approved and paid to the contractor.
However, neither the government nor the contractor has been able to give reasons for such variation. Though the government through the health ministry promised to make the reasons for such variation cost available to our reporter, it did not, after many weeks.
The contractor, on his part, bluntly refused to talk, saying it had, and still has nothing to do with the project.
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